Last night I went out for dinner with friends I made on the trip to the UK last year, some who are at Assembly and two others who met us here. We ate at a lovely Lebanese restaurant in Surrey Hills, called The Prophet, and it was a great evening. Firstly, to be away from here, in a different space emotionally and physically, and secondly to reconnect with some new friends who shared a significant experience.
I was going to write about the Cato lecture that we heard on Saturday night, from Daniel Smith Christopher, but I think I'll leave that for now. I will come back to it, but I'm still processing.
We had another approach to delivering the bible study this morning, this time framing the discussion with a poem from Thomas Keneally called 'I thirst'. The discussion was also interspersed effortlessly and without too much quoting of chapter and verse with words from Jesus. We explored what it is Jesus might thirst for - peace, and the billions of dollars spent on warfare efforts in comparison with the proportion of that bill that would be needed to address poverty, aids, education, particularly in the poorer nations of our world. I asked the question of those sitting with me - why do governments then not do it? We wondered if we can ask that question if we are not also asking the question of ourselves, how are we spending our money? If we are spending our money on maintaining old and outdated and ineffectual worship for the few instead of on quenching the thirst of people on our doorsteps, how can we ask the government to spend its money quenching the thirst of others? And it's not a question of getting our own house in order first, we must do both simultaneously, and risk a charge of hypocrisy, if we can show that we, too, are struggling to find authenticity in the stewardship of our resources. To do that is to embody the peace of Jesus Christ, who acted and called others to act.
There were some signs of hope today. We passed the proposal for the amended preamble to the UCA constitution. The gloss was taken off this momentous decision somewhat by the fact that it had to go to formal voting (the UCA uses consensus decision making procedures, which I am not going to explain here). However, we as an Assembly still thus said to the Indigenous members of our church, most of us stand with you and grant you your request with grace and in love. There was further deliberation during the day on further constitutional changes that help the church and Congress live out our Covenantal relationship, some of which was frustrating. We received a blessing from Congress at the end of business in the afternoon session, which did give us an opportunity to express our joy, and to celebrate this step towards healing.
Another sign of hope was in three proposals to offer greetings and words of encouragement and solidarity to our friends in troubled lands. Our prayers were sincere, and our desire to follow up our words with actions of solidarity a heart warming sign of hope that we do, indeed, live out our relationship with Jesus Christ.
There were still some moments when it appears that we are not always willing or able to trust our councils, processes, each other, with being able to do their work in the life of the church with integrity and accountability. However, the vast majority do, in the end, trust.
How's that for a day? There is much happening here at this Assembly, some frustrating things, some hurtful moments, and some hopeful, joyful signs of our life as the body of Christ in Australia. I am very pleased to be here, taking part in this aspect of the life of the church in Australia, at a national level. It is hard work, but worthy work; there are a lot of words, but they do, for the most part, seem to stem from and enable actions of integrity; and I have enjoyed meeting people from different parts of Australia engaged in the mission of God through the Uniting Church to which I feel so connected and dedicated. It's not a perfect church by any means, but it is my church, and I am proud to claim it.